Not a lot of bands come from Boise, Idaho, however even if SEPTIC DEATH were the only band to emerge from there, it should put the city on the map as birthing something great.
The band was formed by late ’70s/ early ’80s California skate regular Brian “Pushead” Schroeder, who had already made a bit of a name in the underground hardcore/ punk scene not only as a skater, but as an artist. He began sending his art to bands and ‘zines in the early ’80s, and many of them chose to use it. Later he became the main artist for Zorlac Skateboards, designing the artwork for a special edition METALLICA skateboard . The band soon used him to design art and t-shirts for them, which propelled him to even larger fame. At this point he has done art for tons of bands both big and small, and his unmistakable gruesome and original artwork and attention to detail was first brought into full bloom in the service of SEPTIC DEATH.
Now That I Have the Attention What Do I Do With It? (which came out in early ’86) is not actually an album proper, but a re-issue of the band’s first 12″ep Need So Much Attention… Acceptance of Whom mixed with some compilation tracks and some new songs. Side A features 3 tracks from the 12″ep that have added guitars and re-recorded vocals, as well as songs from compilations such as PEACE/ War, Cleanse the Bacteria, and the Putrid Evil flexi (some re-recorded). Side B features the other 9 songs from the 12″ep in their original versions.
Pushead still considers it his band’s debut album rather than a compilation, so we at PMT count it as such. The music on this is astoundingly perfect, jaw dropping hardcore thrash. There are few albums that deal in this kind of music that are this phenomenal. The songs are fairly simple, but very original sounding even today (after almost 30 years). The musicianship is as tight as can be, with insanely fast picking from guitarist Onj, talented and original bass lines from bassist Mike Matlock and a stop-on-a-dime delivery that belies a strong intimacy with the songs and their instruments. There is no band that I can think of who play thrash that can top this. Some people say SLAYER’s Reign In Blood is the ultimate thrash album, but this one blows it away. The fast parts are incredibly fast, and the breakdowns are rocking and make you want to kill. The vocals sound like a cross between a hardcore screamer and a gruff black metal vocalist (with just a bit of a snotty punk snarl), and the song structures are interesting and well put together (even the shorter songs like “Advantage” and “Dream Silent” seem carefully crafted). It’s worth mentioning that drummer Paul Birnbaum is insanely talented and his outstanding drum work is a perfect testament to what a thrashcore drummer should sound like- not just fast, but rhythmically interesting.
The lyrics are also written with a high level of quality, mostly concerning madness and horror (with some social ones thrown in).
The production is perfect- clear enough to hear everything well, but grimey enough to not sound too clean or overproduced. The buzzsaw guitars and fuzzy bass compliment the machine gun drums (that at times sound like he’s pounding on a coffin) perfectly.
The packaging and artwork is top notch, as you’d expect from a detail-oriented perfectionist like Pushead. However he gets a couple of other artists to do some work on it as well, so the artwork is varied and not one-dimensional.
Many bands, from METALLICA to INTEGRITY have heralded the brilliance of SEPTIC DEATH (James Hetfield even did vocals on their follow-up 7″ep Burial, and Kirk Hammett played mead guitar on a song on their Kichigai 7″ep). If you like hardcore, thrash, crust, or extreme metal and you haven’t checked this album out, do yourself a favor and listen to it now.
Their drummer and guitarist have switched instruments and now play in a band called Little Miss and the No-Names (who are much more punk rock sounding).